I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 12 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about how stopping Year 11 interventions will help protect our mental health and improve our well-being.
Stop the interventions. We had a Staff Briefing on Friday, the slides from which are below, where Jane Elsworth and I gave a short presentation to colleagues. Our message was simple: stop doing extra revision sessions for Year 11 and instead save your energies for planning and teaching great lessons which will prepare the students well for their examinations in June. I looked historically at our results which improved from 2010, the year we decided that we should stop extra revision classes. I was worried that provision of the extra stuff was beginning to creep back. Our argument was encapsulated in this sentence:
Why do some students think, when they have seven hours of English lessons in Years 10 and 11 a fortnight, that ten one hour lessons, one a week leading up to the examinations, held after school when they and their teachers are tired, will suddenly transform them from D grade students to C grade students and make up for their lack of effort in their seven hours of lessons a fortnight over the past 18 months?
Stop passing the pressure on. Jane looked at two students, one who is doing 26 hours a week in extra study and one who is in school until 5.30 pm most days of the week, and talked about how we must try to prevent the pressure we feel being passed onto the students. With a high-stakes terminal examination system Headteachers can sometimes pass on the pressure to Subject Leaders who pass it onto their colleagues who pass it on to their students who then can worry their poor parents silly. We need to prevent that. Nothing is worth getting ill about. Let’s just do as well as we can possibly do in a balanced, reasonable way. Don’t get me wrong, there are some students who haven’t woken up yet to the fact that we are eight weeks away from the beginning of the GCSE examinations and who need to do significantly more work, but that is a different issue.
Well-being is of prime importance, because if you and your students are pressured to the point of stress then no one will perform well; crucially, the converse is true. I said this to finish: “All I can ask is that, on results day in August, we can truthfully say to ourselves that we did the very best we could without damaging our own mental health or the mental health of our students. We must not push for even better examination results at the cost of our well-being.” It went down well.